I spent a good deal of time in Davis Square yesterday, because of Goodwill. And I had some conversations with random people. Here are some excerpts.
- Wayne. Wayne is, as far as I can tell, in charge of the Davis Square Goodwill. He's probably a few years older than me, tall and lanky, has a great voice with an accent not-from-Boston, and looks like a cross between a hippie and a biker. He is one of the happiest, good-natured guys I have ever met in my life. He recognises me every time I go in (we've actually been introduced but I doubt he remembers), and he really seems to just enjoy working at Goodwill. He never loses his temper that I've seen; he goes from taking donations to quoting prices to soothing ruffled feathers to helping someone get something out of the window display without missing a beat.
I don't know what his secret is, but I wish I loved my job as much as he seems to love his.
- Random woman. I didn't get her name. She was pretty, redheaded, slender and petite, drinking a giant latte from Dunkin' Donuts. She struck up a conversation with me, and mentioned she had four children. Even though it sounded like a total cliché, I couldn't help but say, "You? Have four kids? You don't look like you can have four kids!" She assured me she did, and in fact her oldest was 21. "No way! You can't be much older than I am!" I said. She told me she was 42. "I'm 40! See? I told you you were my age."
For half her life, this woman has been a mother. And a wife, though she recently divorced and is now revelling in her new-found freedom. When she was 21, she was married and having a baby. When I was 21, I was still in school and going to Montréal for a year. She has four kids. I have four cats. I'm not sure who's had the better life, actually.
- Jo-Ann. Jo-Ann owns Stinky's Kittens and Doggies Too in Ball Square, a grooming shop that offers pet sitting; we are having them take care of the cats when we go on our trip this summer. I'd gone in to make the arrangements, and when I walked in there was a black woman about my age with disheveled hair, in a dirty lab coat, shearing a Pekinese. She greeted me and I said, "Hi. I had talked to someone on the phone about a month ago about catsitting our four cats; I don't remember her name, but she was the owner."
She said that was her. I didn't hear her the first time (traffic outside), so she had to repeat that she was the owner. And I was surprised. I said, stupidly, "Oh! I'm sorry! You just...didn't look like the owner." And by that I meant, I wasn't expecting the owner to be in a dirty coat doing all the work, for some reason. But I know what she thought - I totally didn't mean it, but I know what she thought I was thinking. "It's okay," she said, cutting off my babbling apologies before I got myself in deeper.
Of course, I had no way to tell her that I wasn't surprised a black woman could own a grooming shop. And later, I mentioned that I am in a mixed-race relationship, so she knows I'm not a total white supremist. But damn...if I ever could have a do-over, that'd be it right there.
- Henry. Henry owns Julie's Nails in Davis Square, where I get my pedicures when I am not saving $20 a month to go to Asia. I adore Henry; he obviously loves being the popular big shot in the nail salon. He's made this tea-cart with candies, Vietnamese treats, water and Jasmine tea and he wheels it up and down the aisle, offering some to every customer. He carries your bags, brings you magazines, and hangs up your coat for you. Like Wayne, he never loses his temper and apparently loves his job.
He always recognises me, even if I'm just walking by while he's outside having a cigarette. Yesterday he asked me when I was coming in again, because he hadn't seen me in a while. I explained about saving money and told him I'd be in on my birthday in June. He said that that was too long, and I agreed. Believe me, I said, it's way too long.
I found out yesterday that Henry is 38, two years younger than me, which means he was born in 1967. In Vietnam. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be born in Vietnam in 1967. We all think we had a tough time growing up, but we were all spoiled brats compared to what Henry's childhood much have been like. And yet, he's a successful business owner now, while some of us with our pampered childhoods are still whining about how hard our lives are (and how bored we are at our overpaid jobs? Who, me?)...I think we have no idea, really, what hard is.